CARY, N.C.—Heading into the second day of the tournament, many fans at the National High School Invitational were anxiously awaiting the arrival of The Woodlands (Texas) High, and the Highlanders did not disappoint.
Neither did their opponent, as Jenks (Okla.) High put up a huge fight in a 2-1 loss to The Woodlands.
Pitching on both sides was impressive, with Texas Christian commit Ryan Burnett recording the complete-game victory for the Highlanders. The southpaw gave up just one run on two hits, walking two and notching eight strikeouts.
Jenks starter Thomas Hatch also threw seven impressive innings. The Oklahoma State commit allowed two runs on three hits, walking five, striking out five and keeping The Woodlands hitters off-balance all game.
“We haven’t faced pitching like that lately,” The Woodlands coach Ron Eastman said. “It was good for us.”
Trojans coach Dennis Keeley was happy with his entire team performance, and especially with the standout display from his starting pitcher.
“I thought our boys competed real well,” Keeley said. “It makes it a little easier when you get a great performance out of your starting pitcher and Thomas gave that to us today; gave us a chance to win the game against one of the best teams around.
“It would have been nice to find a way to scratch another run [across] but now we’ve got to regroup, come back and see if we can get after it again this afternoon.”
The Highlanders literally had to squeeze the winning run across the plate, sending their 6-foot-1, 210-pound designated hitter Josh Shaw to the plate in the sixth with bases loaded and one out. The first run of the game came in on a passed ball and Shaw followed with a safety squeeze to give The Woodlands the 2-0 advantage.
“We work on that a lot,” Eastman said of Shaw’s squeeze. “We work on that in practice and we expect our guys to be able to get a bunt down. Josh, we’ve had him in that situation before and he rose to the occasion then, got that bunt down. It was a great job by him.”
After allowing one run to Jenks in the bottom of the sixth, Burnett came out firing in the final frame. The lefty found another gear and struck out the side in order to finish the game.
“My adrenaline was going,” Burnett said. “I just wanted to end it; I wanted to finish it. My fastball was working so I just stuck to it.”
Eastman added: “Ryan does a great job in his conditioning program. . .and he’s actually been doing that the whole season. He will find another gear at the end of the game to finish it. He seems to get stronger in the sixth and seventh.”
Despite the loss, Jenks was happy to face one of the best teams in their early matchup. The Trojans are confident in their ability and will take what they were able to accomplish into the rest of the tournament.
“We knew it was going to be a really tough battle,” Keeley said. “We felt good coming in. We knew we had our best going and Thomas was going to give us a great performance and a chance to win the game. That’s exactly the way it played out. We just couldn’t find that hit when we needed it, with runners on. You have to tip your hat to the young man they threw out there. He made some big pitches at big times and that’s the way baseball’s played. There were two really good arms out there going today.”